Rickmansworth goes to town
PUBLISHED: 16:15 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:55 20 February 2013
People enjoy living in Rickmansworth and celebrate it in a big way every year - Sue Armstrong discovers its charms and festivities
SITTING in the Colne Valley, in the south-west corner of Hertfordshire, Rickmansworth, or Ricky as it is fondly referred to by some, has beautiful countryside on its doorstep and the advantage of picturesque watery surrounds - three lakes, Bury, Batchworth and Stockers, three rivers - the Chess, Gade and Colne - and a canal, the Grand Union Canal no less.
A former market town, the centre of Rickmansworth is a conservation area with many fine buildings, giving it individual character and a country feel, including the church of St Mary with its 17th-century tower. The charming High Street has at least one of everything needed with plenty of individual shops, welcoming places to stop off for a cup of tea or coffee, a generous helping of restaurants and a theatre, aptly named Watersmeet, with an exciting programme of entertainment for all ages.
It's festival time!
Every year, on the third weekend of May, the Rickmansworth Festival takes place revelling in all things relating to canals, the community and the environment. This event has been taking place for more than 15 years and has become the highlight of the town's calendar as well as the finale of Rickmansworth Week, celebrating everything Ricky.
One of the main attractions of the Festival is the multi-coloured array of canal boats from across the country, making a unique spectacle moored along the towpath up to four deep. Over 20,000 people are expected to go along to this year's festivities and they will have the opportunity to enjoy boat rides, a tug of war between the canal boats, an exhibition of medieval living, craft stalls, live music, dancing, barbecues, a beer tent and lots, lots more. Boat owners will be proudly showing off their vessels to visitors and talking boats to anyone who shares their passion.
The festival is organised by the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust together with British Waterways, the Three Rivers District Council and Three Valleys Water plus many volunteers. Russell Carpenter, Publicity Officer for Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, says: 'I love everything about the Festival - it's bright, it's colourful and it's family focused. It brings the community together as well as people from further afield.'
Entry to the festival is free but donations made by visitors help to ensure the festival can continue and also support the award-winning education programme run by the Trust.
A leisurely ten-minute stroll along the tow path, heading south from the town centre, leads to the Aquadrome and at the heart of its 100 acres of beautiful grassland and woodland are three lakes. This area is a paradise for birdwatchers, walkers, photographers and anyone who loves water sports. Bury Lake is used for sailing, windsurfing and canoeing. Batchworth Lake is home to a water ski-ing club and is fished during the open season, with a reputation as a big carp water. The biggest of the three, Stockers Lake, is a dedicated bird and wildlife sanctuary. The lake and its islands attract a huge number of water birds and the heronry here is the largest in the country. The hides on the shore side provide the ideal spot to watch the wildlife unobserved.
With picnic areas, a caf, children's play area and wheelchair accessible pathways, the Aquadrome makes a great day out for everyone.
A little bit of history
Rickmansworth's history dates back to Saxon days when it was known as Ryckmer. The Saxon settlers built a wooden chapel, which often became surrounded by water and was known as St Mary of the Island.
The arrival of the manmade waterway in 1796, originally named the Grand Junction Canal, opened up new markets for the town and industries grew, including brewing, salting, paper making and boat building. The prosperous trade on the canal continued for many years. One particularly prominent canal business was W H Walker and Brothers Ltd. Opened in 1905, the yard built and repaired large distinguished wooden boats. The business stood in Frogmore Wharf where Tesco supermarket is now.
The town's growth in the 1920s and 1930s accelerated with the arrival of the Metropolitan Line of the London Underground. With this excellent transport link to Metroland, as the area became known, and the later arrival of the M25, Rickmansworth has become a popular commuter town for London and its population has grown to over 30,000.
More details about Rickmansworth's history can be discovered at the Three Rivers Museum, where a varied collection of artefacts and photographs can be enjoyed. The museum is located in Basing House, in the High Street, a building of significant interest itself, having been the former home of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, in North America.
Somewhere to stay
The Long Island Exchange is conveniently situated opposite Rickmansworth Station. This American themed hotel has 50 bedrooms plus a stylish bar and restaurant. With adaptable facilities, it caters for parties, special occasions and business meetings. Once a week it hosts a Salsa night and provides free tapas to all who attend. On Friday and Saturday nights the bar turns into a nightclub and stays open until 2pm. General Manager, Said Namdarkhan, says: 'We've also recently introduced comedy nights every month or so, as well as live bands playing a mixture of music - they are proving very popular.'
Fit for a King
Set in 300 acres of mature woodland and parkland, Moor Park Golf Club is famous not only for its two championship golf courses but also for its stunning clubhouse - a Palladian mansion. This magnificent building was commissioned in 1670 by James the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II. Its interior includes decorations by Venetian craftsmen and plays host to many original works of art.
During World War II, the Armed Forces were based in the mansion and it was here that the Battle of Arnhem was planned. This battle was depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far and, as the Parachute Regiment was very much involved in the action, a room now known as the Arnhem Room, is home to memorabilia from many of the actions that have involved this famous regiment.
Moor Park Mansion has been lovingly restored and apart from being an outstanding clubhouse, it is open to the public for tours on certain dates, between April and October, and makes an elegant setting for wedding ceremonies, family celebrations, conferences and training courses.
16-17 May 2009
Three Rivers Museum
Basing House, High Street
The Long Island Exchange